Republic FC upset of Earthquakes in U.S. Open Cup could enhance MLS talk

Rodrigo Lopez holds no grudges.

The Sacramento Republic FC midfielder tried to make the San Jose Earthquakes’ roster in 2012 but was not offered a contract.

Lopez was released by the Portland Timbers after the 2011 season, that franchise’s first in Major League Soccer. Then-Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop saw Lopez during a minicamp and invited him for an extended tryout, but a knee injury during training slowed him.

“I rehabbed, but by the time I got back, they said it was too late. They already had their team,” said Lopez, who started his MLS career with Chivas USA.

Republic FC’s assists leader isn’t looking to make a personal statement when Sacramento plays its MLS affiliate, San Jose, tonight in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. It’s more about helping Republic FC enhance its credibility as a potential MLS expansion franchise. The team already has MLS-type fan support, having averaged 19,526 in four USL Pro matches at Hughes Stadium.

Lopez said an upset of the ’Quakes would show MLS that Republic FC has the talent and coaching savvy to compete at the highest level in U.S. pro soccer.

“A win would help us a lot,” Lopez said. “We already have a lot of people in the country talking about Sacramento Republic. So advancing to the next round would make even more noise, especially among MLS.”

The teams met in March in Turlock in an exhibition match that was scoreless for 85 minutes before J.J. Koval and Billy Schuler tallied goals for a 2-0 San Jose win. Veteran ’Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski played in that match but is now with the U.S. National Team as it prepares for the World Cup that begins this week.

Republic FC defeated the Ventura County Fusion 2-1 and the Fresno Fuego 6-0 in previous U.S. Open Cup matches at Cosumnes River College. This is the Earthquakes’ first Open Cup match of 2014. San Jose is 12-10 all-time.

Familiar faces – Though official lineups have yet to be announced, two former area high school stars could see action for the Earthquakes.

Adam Jahn, who attended Jesuit High School and played at Stanford, played for Republic FC in its first two home matches and scored goals in both while on loan from the Earthquakes.

Jahn has played only three minutes for San Jose this season. Last year, the 6-foot-3 forward played in 22 matches, started 11 and scored four goals.

Also on the Quakes’ roster is 19-year-old rookie foward-midfielder Tommy Thompson, a Granite Bay High School graduate. Thompson played just one season at Indiana, where he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2013, before signing with the ’Quakes. He saw his first action – a brief one-minute appearance at the end of the match – in the ’Quakes’ 1-0 loss to Toronto FC on Sunday.

Before departing for Indiana, Thompson suited up for the Earthquakes in 2013 Reserve League action. He led the team with four assists in five appearances. At Granite Bay in 2010, Thompson and brothers Tanner and Ty (who plays for Stanford) helped lead Granite Bay to a 26-0-1 record, one of the best in area history.

Venerable field – Having played four of its six home matches at Hughes Stadium, Republic FC will play at another historic stadium.

Kezar Stadium, the former home of the 49ers, opened in 1925 and seated 60,000 in a rounded high-walled facility similar to 20,000-seat Hughes Stadium.

The old stadium was torn down when Kezar was renovated in 1990. It now seats 9,000.

Next up – A Republic FC win tonight will move Sacramento into the fifth round June 24 against the winner of the MLS Seattle Sounders vs. PSA Elite match. Republic FC would play at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash., if Seattle wins. A PSA Elite upset of the three-time U.S. Open Cup champion would put the match at Bonney Field.

The amateur, Irvine-based PSA Elite already is one of the top stories of the U.S. Open Cup, having upset the USL Pro Los Angeles Galaxy II 2-0 in their third-round match. UCLA goalie Earl Edwards Jr. had 14 saves for PSA Elite, including a penalty kick.

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